Foster Grandparents

Tools

by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- Grandparents have plenty of love to offer but they also have plenty of knowledge to share too. And there's a program in Milwaukee that's letting them do it in the schools.

It's called Foster Grandparent Program and it's put on by Interfaith Older Adult Programs. Approximately 40 Foster Grandparents help out at 23 locations around the city, including schools and libraries.

"Sometimes a teacher cannot give that nurturing that a foster grandparent can give to a child," said director Veronica Azi. "I love my Foster Grandparents."

One of them is Georgia Dennis. She's been working with the program for five years at Browning School.

"The children have kept me very lively, they help me as much as I help them, if not more," said Dennis.

She logs 20 hours a week with a K-5 class. Dennis pulls the kids aside who are new or need some extra help. In the morning she works on reading skills and in the afternoon she focuses on math. Dennis makes learning fun playing bingo and other card games to stimulate the children. She also offers them unconditional love-the kind only a grandma has.

"When they first come in they do a lot of crying," said Dennis. "We do a lot of hugging, holding, and petting and making them feel secure."

Dennis helps out Char Goodavisch-Guten's class, who says Dennis gives her a chance to catch her breath.

"Being a classroom teacher, sometimes you get so frustrated, so it's nice to have someone who can find that cheery side all the time," said Goodavisch-Guten.

Dennis teaches the kids songs and helps them get their energy out.

"I love them," said Dennis. "I get great joy in seeing them. I love watching them grow."

Besides being at least 55 years old, Azi says the requirements for being a Foster Grandparent are simple: you have to love kids. The Foster Grandparents have monthly meetings and seminars on topics that are pertinent to them. They also receive transportation and a small stipend for their time.

"Its not about the money at all. It's about their care and love for children," said Azi.

For more information on the Foster Grandparent Program with Interfaith Older Adult Programs, log onto www.interfaithmilw.org

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